Posted 6th September 2013 | 10 Comments

Government steps up HS2 campaign

THE Government is stepping up its campaign to promote High Speed 2, after several weeks in which various opponents have been mustering their arguments against the scheme.

Although the official budget for both phases is capped at around £50 billion, including £7.5 billion for trains as well as a contingency budget of more than £14 billion, there have been claims from critics that the real cost could be as much as £80 billion.

This is firmly denied by the Department for Transport, which says the aim is to work within the budget and not to use any of the contingency margin if that proves possible.

The DfT has also confirmed that the present official figure takes into account the additional tunnels which have been agreed on environmental grounds in north west London and the Chilterns.

The Paving Bill, which will authorise expenditure on the project for the near future, has now passed the Committee Stage and is set to receive its Third Reading when Parliament returns.

But in the meantime the Government has been taking the case in favour of HS2 to the West Midlands, with a major event staged in Birmingham today (Friday).

Members of the HS2 Growth Taskforce have been meeting key figures from the region, in the first of a series of roadshows.

One major benefit is said to be the creation of tens of thousands of jobs, including as many as 50,000 in construction alone when the project reaches its peak.

Taskforce member Sir Albert Bore, who is also leader of Birmingham City Council, said: "I am pleased that the HS2 Growth Taskforce is in Birmingham to see all that the city has to offer and to consider how it could benefit from HS2.

"New research by KPMG for the regional transport authority Centro, published today, reveals that HS2 will deliver 50,000 jobs and £4 billion of economic growth each year for the West Midlands. The figures show the benefits of connecting Birmingham and London are more than doubled when the region is also linked with Manchester and Leeds."

He was accompanied by commercial Treasury secretary Lord Deighton, who also chairs the HS2 Taskforce. He said: "With Birmingham firmly at the heart of the new HS2 network it is a great place to start our roadshows and consider the transformational effect HS2 could have on the city and West Midlands. Redevelopment at Curzon Street as a result of the new station would see the area become a vibrant hub with the potential for retail, leisure and other industries to maximise this opportunity.

“HS2 is not just a project for London or the station cities and the Growth Taskforce is determined to see the benefits stretch far and wide across the country. That is why getting out and meeting with our city and business leaders is so vital and will go a long way to informing our final report to the Government.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has also joined the debate by speaking in favour of a High Speed line. In a speech to the annual dinner of the CBI, he said: "Completing HS2 will help us to tackle the North-South divide that's scarred our country for too long. Giving eight of our biggest cities, across the North and Midlands, the modern rail links they deserve, as well as generating over £60bn of benefits for the UK."

He also went to reject claims that the £50 billion budget should be spent on improving existing lines instead, saying: "The alternatives, such as upgrading existing lines, aren't viable answers."

Even so, the promotion of HS2 is set to be countered by more arguments from those who maintain that the scheme is not value for money. Another report on HS2 is due shortly from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, which has been critical of the alleged benefits in recent times.

Campaigners have also been claiming that the so-called Gagging Bill, which is intended to put a brake on communications during the year before an election, could also prevent the voicing of legitimate opposition to HS2, although it has been suggested today that Ministers are set to stage a partial u-turn about some of the proposed restrictions next week.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Peter Davidson, Alderley Edge, NW.England

    The Plan B envisaged by Bucks based anti-HS2 campaigners is blindingly obvious - it's a new route for HS2, nowhere near them!

    The need for a new rail line to provide relief for the (rapidly becoming) overstretched WCML and ECML key rail arteries is blindingly obvious so even if the current insidious campaign to undermine HS2 is successful in the short term, the same transport strategy will come back in another guise.

    Bucks. based campaigners understand that reality all too well - their calculated hope is that any revisited strategy will take the threat of line out of their backyards and dump it in someone eles's!!!

    And you won't hear a peep from the leafy lanes of Buckinghamshire if that outcome unfolds either - just the very hushed sound of concealed smirking?

  • jbzoom, Guildford

    It has to be High Speed because eventually it will reach the North East and Scotland. If it does so at 200 mph it will eliminate 80% of internal air travel. The Paving Bill provides funding for working up future extensions, as well as Phases I and II.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire

    "Government steps up HS2 campaign"..........and about time too!! What vast numbers of we British are simply Luddites - it's appalling!!

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham

    The London 3rd runway is a good precedent. It was scrapped in 2010 - and less than three years later, it's back with a vengeance, as the consequences of not doing this become clearer. If anyone needs a workable plan B, it's the antis living along the route. Otherwise, Plan B will be to go back to Plan A.

  • nick, welwyn

    There may already be transport links in place but within ten years there will not be any rail capacity remaining which will harm connectivity which is a burden to economic growth. Indeed wcml service reliability is worsening already and some trains are very overcrowded already. Capacity not speed has always been the main reason why hs2 is needed. Read the atkins reports from 2009 and 2010 and this will become clear.

  • HH, Bham

    Only one thing need be said - HS2 is vital Lets get on and build it

  • Peter, Great Missenden

    Supporters of HS2 throw the 'North-South divide' at every question regardless of phase. Of course the DfT figures will support HS2, that doesn't mean they are correct, as many of their figures have been shown to be wildly not so !

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    We have probably got 4 more years of this acidic debate, and my guess is that eventually (like London's 3rd Runway) it will be scapped at the last moment. But whatever happens there should be a Plan B just in case everything goes 'Pear-shaped'.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    What HS2 needs now is a champion who can counter claims, especially like recent ones that simply don't add up when you find plans like Crossrail 2 added to HS2 despite this line being the latest version of Chelsea to Hackney line that began under Wartime Abercrombie Report !

    The obvious candidate is outgoung Network Rail Chief Sir David Higgins who took Olympic Games through to success last year and could get work on HS2 under way.

    In fact, given that the £2-3 billion per year for HS2 is simply a carry on of spending now under way on Crossrail 1 perhaps the time table of HS2 should be brought closer together with Crossrail so as spending on Crossrail falls then spending on HS2 could rise thus bringing forward HS2 start date to 2016/7 !

    In fact work at Euston could be brought forward if TFL is given the funding to upgrade and rebuild both Euston and Euston Square underground Stations .

  • Charles Padley, High Wycombe

    Why is it in all commentaries people, as KPMG has stated, say that connecting Birmingham and London will bridge the North / South divide? Birmingham and London are connected by Chiltern Railways and Virgin out of Euston and the M40/42 it is no mystery that Birmingham exists!!

    Furthermore if capacity is now the issue and not businessmen hurry to their next appointment why does it have to be High Speed?

    (The reference to North/South divide is mainly related to the next Phase, to Leeds and Manchester. The cost of building a new line to conventional rather than High Speed specifications would still be around 90% of the High Speed cost, according to the DfT. The time saving is not the primary reason for building HS2 between London and Birmingham, but becomes increasingly relevant the further north you go.--Ed.)